The Judge was at a meeting of the Raisin Growers Association, and the boys were busy organizing an athletic club, on the memorable night of Manuels treachery. No one saw him and Buck go off through the orchard on what Buck imagined was merely a stroll. And with the exception of a solitary man, no one saw them arrive at the little flag station known as College Park. This man talked with Manuel, and money chinked between them.
You might wrap up the goods before you deliver m, the stranger said gruffly, and Manuel doubled a piece of stout rope around Bucks neck under the collar.
Twist it, an youll choke m plentee, said Manuel, and the stranger grunted a ready affirmative.
Buck had accepted the rope with quiet dignity. To be sure, it was an unwonted performance: but he had learned to trust in men he knew, and to give them credit for a wisdom that outreached his own. But when the ends of the rope were placed in the strangers hands, he growled menacingly. He had merely intimated his displeasure, in his pride believing that to intimate was to command. But to his surprise the rope tightened around his neck, shutting off his breath. In quick rage he sprang at the man, who met him halfway, grappled him close by the throat, and with a deft twist threw him over on his back. Then the rope tightened mercilessly, while Buck struggled in a fury, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and his great chest panting futilely. Never in all his life had he been so vilely treated, and never in all his life had he been so angry. But his strength ebbed, his eyes glazed, and he knew nothing when the train was flagged and the two men threw him into the baggage car.
The next he knew, he was dimly aware that his tongue was hurting and that he was being jolted along in some kind of a conveyance. The hoarse shriek of a locomotive whistling a crossing told him where he was. He had travelled too often with the Judge not to know the sensation of riding in a baggage car. He opened his eyes, and into them came the unbridled anger of a kidnapped king. The man sprang for his throat, but Buck was too quick for him. His jaws closed on the hand, nor did they relax till his senses were choked out of him once more.
Yep, has fits, the man said, hiding his mangled hand from the baggageman, who had been attracted by the sounds of struggle. Im takin m up for the boss to Frisco. A crack dog-doctor there thinks that he can cure em.
Concerning that nights ride, the man spoke most eloquently for himself, in a little shed back of a saloon on the San Francisco water front.
All I get is fifty for it, he grumbled; an I wouldnt do it over for a thousand, cold cash.
His hand was wrapped in a bloody handkerchief, and the right trouser leg was ripped from knee to ankle.
How much did the other mug get? the saloon-keeper demanded.
A hundred, was the reply. Wouldnt take a sou less, so help me.
That makes a hundred and fifty, the saloon-keeper calculated; and hes worth it, or Im a squarehead.
The kidnapper undid the bloody wrappings and looked at his lacerated hand. If I dont get the hydrophoby
Itll be because you was born to hang, laughed the saloon-keeper. Here lend me a hand before you pull your freight, he added.
Dazed, suffering intolerable pain from throat and tongue, with the life half throttled out of him, Buck attempted to face his tormentors. But he was thrown down and choked repeatedly, till they succeeded in filing the heavy brass collar from off his neck. Then the rope was removed, and he was flung into a cagelike crate.
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